Every family is different and so every homeschool is different. In our homeschool, I do not feel that my children are left behind by putting off formal academics. Little children are so curious that learning comes quite naturally.
In fact, they learn simply through their play.
That doesn’t mean to ignore wee ones and their learning. Instead take joy in playing with them and learning beside them. Look for those teachable moments.
Here are some ideas on teaching math and science skills without an expensive homeschool program.
If you are in the McDonald’s drive-thru (and surely, being thrifty, you are only there because of an emergency and you are NOT ordering Happy Meals!) ask your wee ones how many chicken nuggets they are going to get after they share the 20-piece box with the rest of the family. Perhaps show them how ordering the 20-piece is cheaper than ordering 5 4-pieces.
Look for connect-the-dot and maze books at the grocery store. They are inexpensive and kids love them. Connecting the dots teach sequencing. Solving mazes teaches children to look several steps ahead – an important concept in higher mathematics.
Simple blocks and wooden puzzles will help with shape recognition. Don’t be afraid to get on the floor with your child and a mess of blocks. As you build together, point out the names of shapes. Search your house for shapes – the round pie pan, the rectangular aquarium, the square computer monitor, etc.
Cooking with little ones offers many opportunities for building math skills. I might say, “I need to divide this bread dough into 2 parts,” or “We have to roll this pastry out to nine inches.” Let them measure out ingredients or help double a recipe.
Give them a tape measure and let them measure everything in the house.
Read picture books that have a math theme. Ask your librarian for help if need be (or see The Catholic Homeschool Companion for a short list).
Play LEGOs or dominoes.
In preparing a foundation upon which to build science skills, we must first ask ourselves “what is exactly is science.” Science is so much more than the simple collection of facts. Science is about observation. Yes, we need to know basic facts such as the boiling point for water and that the earth is the third planet from the sun, but we also need to remember that those facts were first discovered by observation.
Young children love memorizing facts and so teaching them science facts such as the order of the planets, would be both fun and useful. But I encourage you to do more than that. Teach them observation skills.
There are four parts to observation:
Ask what is happening.
Predict what might happen.
Test your prediction.
Make sense of the results.
Science involves trial and error, it is a way of thinking. Children learn science best if they are encouraged to investigate and experiment. Young children love to see, to touch, to manipulate. They like to see how things change.
When babies throw their plate off the highchair and onto the floor, they are not being bad, they are observing. They wonder what will happen if the plate goes over the edge. They may even be making a prediction. They test the prediction and then try to makes sense of the results. You might say that they are testing the theory of gravity.
In cooking, let children observe how the butter melts, how the texture of the bread dough is different from the finished loaf, or how vinegar curdles milk. Ask her why she thinks these things happen.
Take walks outdoors and observe the night sky. How does it change from day to night? From night to night? From season to season? Ask why he thinks these changes take place.
More important than anything, give your child lots of time to play. Children naturally explore and create. Play gives them opportunities to solve problems, learn about physics, shapes, and building foundations.
Copyright 2009 Maureen Wittmann